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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

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All-time winningest (that sports cliche, winningest, coincidentally, is not a for real word, though it is perhaps the best available adjective when used) Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry is on the spot for speaking the Forbidden Truth Which Must Not Be Told:

Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry, expressing frustration Tuesday with the Falcons' slumping performance, attributed the latest loss in part to No. 20 TCU's having more black players who "can run very, very well."

DeBerry, in his 22nd year at the Air Force Academy, first mentioned the academy's lack of minority players compared to other schools while talking to reporters Monday. He said Air Force needed to recruit faster players.

"We were looking at things, like you don't see many minority athletes in our program," DeBerry told The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

When questioned about the remarks during his weekly luncheon Tuesday, the coach didn't hesitate to elaborate. "It just seems to be that way, that Afro-American kids can run very, very well. That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me they run extremely well," DeBerry said in remarks first broadcast Tuesday night by KWGN-TV in Denver.

Academy officials released a statement saying they were aware of the remarks.
"Afro Americans?" Fisher, you fool!

The apparently negative nature of this article - inferred by the mere fact that there is an article, and that it immediately lumps DeBerry's comments and personal religious displays (gasp!) in with actually serious allegations of religious imposition, sexual abuse and ignorant reaction to sexual abuse at the academy - leads the reader to automatically characterize the remarks as "insensitive." Never mind that overwhelming evidence indicates DeBerry is right.

SMQ is of course speaking of trends and generalizations taking the whole into account, for many exceptions exist, but major college football and the NFL are overwhelmingly dominated by "Afro American" athletes. Whether spoken or not - it has been, quickly and usually qualified with heavy timidity - this is taken for granted. Well over 65 percent of NFL players are black, or a disproportion of about 550 percent when compared to American society at large. There have been zero starting white tailbacks and one starting white cornerback in the league in the last 15 years. In college, which was the last team to finish in the top ten while starting a white tailback? Every coach must be biased in this way towards recruiting (high school coaches sure are, always active to get the black kids in school onto the field), and fans without a doubt automatically designate white receivers as "possession," white safeties as "big hitters" (they're usually right on both counts) and laugh or raise eyebrows any time a white boy displays speed or athleticism.

Air Force plays a game or two on national television every year, with great adulation for the way it competes "without the athletes" of other D-I programs. "They really execute well!" Translation: look at the little white boys running with the ball -­ aren't they cute?

Do not mistake for a second that any of this comes from a place of offense or envy on the part of whitebread SMQ; in fact, he considers the near-unanimous observation that black athletes are excellent runners a compliment, though he is not at all confused by the backlash against such sentiment, which is rooted in deep (and justified) mistrust of any suggestion of biological "superiority" in any race, since that thought must necessarily lead to the idea of biological inferiority as well. That's dangerous, dangerous territory, and the walls against it are understandable.
But ignoring clear evidence is not. For whatever reason - biological, environmental, social, whatever -­ black athletes on the whole are clearly better sprinters and jumpers than white athletes. SMQ does not see this as disputable. At some point, sensitivity - in this case, hyper-sensitivity -­ must give way to what anyone can see with his or her own eyes.

More from Pat Forde, who is "all for a more open dialog about race in America, and especially in sports," and dismisses DeBerry's comments as "bad timing" and unworthy of dialogue.
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10:46 AM

SMQ, I think the problem, if there indeed is one, is the implication that African-Americans have value only insofar as they have physical gifts. I think the general nature of DeBerry's comments lend themself to this charge, not unlike the supposed Bear Bryant quote about "needing to get some of those" after Sam Cunningham ran over 'Bama back in the early 1970's.

I could certainly see where someone who was African-American would take serious offense if someone says something like "Wow, those Blacks sure are physically gifted," whether positive or not, because it's the same reasoning that led to their enslavement in this country.

Admittedly, I only find DeBerry's comments slightly discomforting, but white people don't have a history of having been brought to this country for their physical abilities.

You may be right - I understand that point, and knew I was risking some PC points by defending DeBerry, who to me is just describing what's sitting right in front of his face. But I think unless the person making the point that black people do obviously seem to be better at sports requring short bursts of speed is also making a truly racist point along the lines of "fast body, slow mind" (to steal Pat Forde's phrase), which DeBerry certainly didn't, I don't think it's fair to attribute that thought to them just because others in the past have held that position. Racism shouldn't be the default reaction, i.e., in this day and age, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, so to speak. DeBerry didn't say anything negative about anyone, except maybe his own players for being too slow (reverse racism!).

It's not good that reaching this rather obvious conclusion brings immediate calls for his resignation - especially when we can be reasonably certain that every other coach probably feels exactly the same way, and is just saavy enough to keep his mouth shut. This is the kind of behavior Pat Forde's column supported - we don't care what you think, or how you act on it, as long as you don't say it publicly - and it doesn't advance any understanding the factors that lead to black success (as likely to be cultural, which seems to be at least part of the case in basketball, as genetic). Because that is what we're talking about: success. Why should that discussion be stifled?

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And don't let the name fool ya - second guessing the phenomenal athletic feats and split-second decisions of college kids under extreme physical duress is for every day of the week.

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